Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our lives worked out exactly the way that we envisioned them? If everything went in a perfectly straight line from one blessing to the next, we could truly live our lives free of worry, fear, shame, doubt, and pain of any kind. Unfortunately, that’s not the way that things work. No one was more aware of this fact than the Apostle Paul. We can look to his life to find examples of blessings in the middle of painful moments.
2 Corinthians 4:9-11 (NLT)
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.
One of the greatest, most dangerous misconceptions about the Christian life is that it somehow becomes free from all trouble once you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior. Many people incorrectly believe that become a Christian somehow exempts them from pain, when nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are certainly benefits associated with being a Christian. The promise of eternal life in the presence of God is one of those benefits. However, we don’t have to wait until we cross on to the other side of eternity to embrace those benefits.
God’s blessings in our lives are at work, even when it seems like everything is falling apart. The Bible is filled with stories about Godly men and women who lived blessed lives, even while they were facing adversity. If we’re going to experience the blessings of God on this side of life, we’re going to need to do the same thing.
Life is not perfect. In fact, there are plenty of times where life is not even easy. It would be wonderful if it were, but that’s simply not reality. Instead, we are faced every day with varying levels of adversity. This means that if we’re going to experience the blessings of God, there are times where we’re going to have to truly look for them.
Paul, the man who wrote the passage that we just read, knew the importance of finding God’s blessings in the face of what felt like immense pain. In fact, Paul spoke often about the fact that he saw times of suffering as great opportunities to experience the blessings of God on a deeper level. In this passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks on the topic of being blessed even though he had picked up some bumps and bruises along the way.
Today, we can look to the life of the Apostle Paul and find examples of being bruised but blessed.
From Stoning to Serving
Acts 14:5-6 (NLT)
Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia, the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area.
During their time in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas preached with so much power that many Jews and Gentiles became Christians. However, the Bible says that some of the Jews rejected the message and manipulated some of the Gentiles in the area to join them in their effort to shut down the two preachers. The mob quickly turned violent and decided to attack and stone them.
We don’t know exactly how Paul and Barnabas found out about the plans. Some scholars believe that someone who was posing as a Jewish leader tipped them off. Others believe that God supernaturally clued them in as to what was about to happen. Regardless, they found out about the plot of the mob and they ran to towns of Derbe and Lystra.
In Acts 14:8-10, Paul and Barnabas saw a man who had been crippled since he was born. While Paul was preaching, he realized, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that the man had the faith to be healed. Paul, in the middle of his sermon, commanded that the man stand up and walk, and that’s exactly what he did.
How does this relate to being bruised but blessed? Paul and Barnabas would have never been in that place if they hadn’t been chased out of the previous place. Had the crowds in Iconium not wanted to stone them and beat them, they wouldn’t have run to Derbe and Lystra. If they hadn’t gone there, they wouldn’t have been able to be involved in the miracle.
The End of Paul and Barnabas
Acts 15:39-40 (NLT)
Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.
It’s hard to think about the end of a friendship as a blessing, but there are times where they can be just that. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement. The two had agreed to go back and visit the churches that they had started and revisit the towns where they had preached the Gospel. Barnabas wanted to take a young man named John Mark with them, but Paul didn’t. John Mark had reportedly abandoned them in a time of need and Paul was done dealing with him.
The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas became so intense that the pair of traveling preachers decided to go their own directions. Barnabas got his wish and took John Mark with him, while Paul chose Silas to be his new traveling companion. We don’t know much about what happened with Barnabas and John Mark, but Paul and Silas became quite the dynamic duo.
The rest of the Book of Acts is filled with stories about Paul and Silas starting churches, performing miracles, and following God’s will for their lives. That wouldn’t have happened if Paul and Barnabas had never split.
The end of a relationship of any kind can be painful and can leave us feeling bruised. However, when we embrace what God has for us in the next chapter of our lives, we can be bruised but blessed.
Paul on Malta
Acts 28:8-9 (NLT)
As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.
Malta wasn’t in the travel itinerary. Paul had been put on a ship with a load of other inmates that was being shipped to Rome to stand before Caesar. However, after Paul told them that the best time for sailing had passed, the crew of the ship decided to try to sail into the spring winds. As they drifted farther from the shore, they found themselves in a hurricane-force storm that put everyone’s life in jeopardy.
As days turned into weeks, it seemed like everyone on board was going to die. Paul went to the innermost parts of the ship to pray, and there, he received encouragement from an angel of the Lord. Eventually, the ship flew apart in the storm, and everyone on board washed up onto the shore of Malta.
God allowed Paul to be on the ship because He wanted Paul to get to Malta. Once on Malta, Paul worked multiple miracles and healed many sick people. A group of people who had never been exposed to the Gospel heard the Message preached because God turned the shipwreck into a blessing.
Countless times in Paul’s life, there were instances of pain being followed by something deserving of praise. In our own lives, we can find the same thing if we commit ourselves to looking for those moments.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to constantly remember that all things work together for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. Help me to find the blessings even in the things that leave me bruised and battered. In Christ’s name, Amen.